Communication Models

about us hero image

A – Z Coaching and Mentoring – This week’s extract outlines the best-known communication models and explores the importance of non-verbal communication.

Don’t forget if you have a special request for a definition of a coaching term or principle, just let us know! Perfect for anyone studying for an ILM Coaching & Mentoring qualification, or as a refresher for experienced coaches.


Communication Models

Below are three of the best-known communication models (how humans send and receive messages), in chronological order of their development:

  1. The Linear or Transmitter Communication model (Shannon & Weaver 1949) has a sender, channel and receiver. The speaker codes the message and speaks, the message is conveyed and the listener listens. The communication has a definite start and finish.
  2. The Interactive Communication model (Wilbur Schramm 1954) adds a level of feedback from the listener, so that two (as opposed to one) linear channels are in operation. The speaker speaks to the listener. The communication has an impact (desired or undesired) and then the listener returns the communication. Both communicators share the same message.
  3. The Transactional Communication model (Barnlund 2008) states that messages are simultaneously sent and received at the same time and that communication is fluid, simultaneous and involves constant interpretation. Non-verbal feedback is also taking place all the time, so the speaker and listener are both communicating at the same time, although only one of them is talking. This model also introduces the impact on communication of personal interpretation, culture, attitudes and other underlying influences.


Communication can be verbal and non verbal. The latter involves the message that pass between people other than spoken words. This type of communication is always present, even if nothing is being said. Verbal communication can be switched off, whilst non-verbal communication is always there, albeit sometimes very subtle. It includes:

  • Posture
  • Gestures
  • Matching and mirroring
  • Facial expressions
  • Breathing rate and depth
  • Body postures
  • Rhythms and fidgets
  • Orientation in relation to your surroundings

Various percentage figures have been published from research into the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal clues in communication, with some dispute about the actual statistics. There is widespread agreement on the relatively small impact of words compared to non-verbal messages. Without seeing and hearing nonverbal clues, it is easier to misunderstand the words. When the words create uncertainty, we increase our attention to non-verbal clues. Paying attention to non-verbal communication is very important for:

  • Setting first impressions
  • Establishing trust and rapport
  • Demonstrating enthusiasm and positivity
  • Detecting congruence (or lack of) in the client
  • Demonstrating active (or deep) listening

Taken from the A-Z Coaching Handbook by Clare Smale where you will find a comprehensive A-Z, plus a full list of references.

View Blog Categories

Contact Clare and the i2l team

Still not sure if we’re the right training provider for you?

Speak to one of our team to find out more.

Stay updated

More Posts

Kolb’s Learning Cycle – A-Z of Coaching & Mentoring

DISC Personality Styles

Why coaching programmes don’t always work

Tips for measuring the effectiveness of your training and development programs

Being – A-Z of Coaching & Mentoring

Certification – A-Z of Coaching & Mentoring

Is professional education dead?

International Coaching Week – Man’s Search for Meaning